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Re: fungal vs bacterial/ till no? No till?
i fully agree with you. in fact, that's the way it should be. i have
nothing against testings and science. what i simply propose is to really
involve farmers in determining their agriculture, self-reliance and not
dictated by the next guy. in my farm, i do internship and apprenticeship,
and when someone applies, i always asked, who's gonna touch and deal with
the dirt. if the prospect intern or apprentice is not the one who will be
dealing with the soil, then i gracefully turn them down. a good true farmer
should really be able to connect with the dirt, observe and "talk" to the
dirt and plants. it is this simplicity of relationship that determines the
outcome of his agriculture. and this can only happen when you are the real
person doing it and not someone else. that's the reason, i don't believe
too much on big agriculture. big agriculture loses our connection with the
dirt. it alienates and separates us from the earth. we are but part of it
and cannot be separated from it. we respond to the "dictates" of nature and
not of man.
anyway, let us not be conditioned with what the next guy will tell us. let
us be free and creative in what we do in agriculture. let us be holistic
and simple. let us learn from nature. and let us align of ways to the
workings of nature.
let us know our soil and its microbial activities and ecologies. and in
knowing, we shall start to understand. and understanding will be the true
beginning of our journey -- our relationship with her.
tests are extremely important in knowing what may be "wrong" with the soil.
but let us not stop and be dependent on it. soil test for example is just
the beginning. we still owe it to ourselves not just to know but to
understand our position and relationship with mother earth. observations
and experiments are important. but you are right elaine, you should know
where you are coming from. you should know the cost-benefit. and without a
better understanding of our land, then you need the the test to really start
your journey in this farming with the dirt.
From: Elaine Ingham <Soilfoodweb@AOL.COM>
Reply-To: Sustainable Agriculture Network Discussion Group
Subject: Re: [SANET-MG] fungal vs bacterial/ till no? No till?
Date: Sun, 20 Apr 2003 17:15:16 -0400
Hi Gil -
I agree that often times the grower knows enough about their land and past
practices that they should have a really good idea of what is going on
biologically in their soil.
But sometimes, even though things should be going right, they aren't. Take
the front lawn at SFI. We have been using compost tea, a few organic
additives like kelp, corn gluten, and the occasional product that people
want tested, and we are having a weed problem. Head-scratching. But then
we noticed that the soil is extremely compacted, as shown by the imbalance
in active to total bacteria, no beneficial fungi present, and extremely
high ciliate numbers.
The people who own the protperty have been over-watering. It's
water-logged the soil. So, we have to get them to turn the water off,
because healthy soil requires 50% less water than poor-structure soil.
Especially in western Oregon, over-watering can be a real problem.
But, what do you do to fix this, now that we've figured out what the
problem is? First, reduce water by 50%. Then get air back into the soil.
Aeration cores are the best bet. Fill the holes with fungal-dominated
aerobic compost, with VAM spores, because we've lost the beneficial fungi
completely in that soil.
It was the soil biology analysis that let us know exactly what was wrong,
and how to fix it.
Often turf people just apply humic acids in a similar condition, and hope
that was all that was needed. But then a month later, you know it wasnt'
adequate to fix the problem. The grass is in serious trouble.
If it is economically worth while, running a check and knowing what needs
to be done solves the problem before the plants die.
It always comes down to a question of cost - benefit ratio. Do you spend
the money to do the testing BEFORE the plant response lets you know
something is wrong?
Depends on how much money will be made on that crop. If the crop isn't
that big a deal, and you can afford to lose productivity, or maybe lose the
crop all together, then letting the plant tell you something is wrong is
But if the loss of part or all of the crop would be economically devasting,
then doing the soil biology, and chemistry, analysis is worthwhile.
If you can afford the consequence of guesswork, then guess. If the
potential improvement in production is more than the cost of the testing,
then it makes sense to test, and then correct the problem.
If you know your land, and the impact that the things you do to it have on
the biology, then you aren't doing guesswork.
What I'd really like to do is have people add manures, different kinds of
compost, different products, and then test to see what the affect is on the
biology. Then we'd KNOW what adding these materials actually is. In the
future we'd just need to assess the quality of the compost, or manure, and
we'd know what effect the additions have on the soil. Less and less
testing would be required with time, and we'd have a better idea what to do
in different situations to really fix a soil to grow what you want it to
grow. So, here's hoping for that kind of knowledge base!
I'd love to work with you to train people in the Phillipiines to do the
kind of testing that we do.
President, Soil Foodweb Inc.
SFI Corvallis, OR
SFI Port Jefferson, NY
SFI Lismore, NSW, Australia
SFI Hilversum, The Netherlands
SFI Cambridge, New Zealand
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